What is Social Work | Social Change | Social Reform and Legislation

Social work is a practiced based profession that aims to bring positive changes to society by empowering individuals and communities. It involves comprehending human behavior, development, and the workings of social, economic, and cultural institutions. Social work professionals working with families and institutions have contributed to various social impacts, such as enhancing community cohesion and promoting people’s well-being.

  • Social work has led to vital social impacts
  • Reducing mental health stigma
  • Advocating for Medicaid and Medicare
  • Preventing child abuse and neglect
  • Promoting civil rights
  • And securing support systems
  • Like unemployment insurance
  • Disability pay
  • And workers’ compensation

Social work in the United States has a rich history of over a century, with notable figures like Jane Addams, Frances Perkins, Whitney M. Young Jr., Harry Hopkins, Dorothy Height, and Jeannette Rankin making significant contributions to the field.

What Is a Social Worker?

Social workers are dedicated professionals striving to improve the overall well-being and address various needs of communities and individuals. They focus on vulnerable, oppressed, and impoverished populations. Depending on their role and workplace, social workers may engage in legislative processes leading to social policy formation. Their work is guided by social work values, principles, and academic research, ensuring effective support and care for those they serve.

Social workers are trained to tackle social injustices and barriers like poverty, discrimination, and homelessness. They aid clients facing disabilities, substance abuse, or domestic conflicts, striving to improve overall well-being.

Social workers tailor their practice to specific interventions and communities they aim to help. Clinical social workers concentrate on mental health treatment, while others may focus on research and developing community programs, such as Medicaid.

What is Social Service?

Social services, also known as welfare services or social work, encompass a wide range of publicly or privately offered assistance for disadvantaged, distressed, or vulnerable individuals or groups. The term “social service” also refers to the profession involved in providing these services. Throughout the 20th century, social services have thrived as societies have embraced the concept of social responsibility and extended support to those in need. Social services provide various societal needs, helping to support and assist communities effectively.

Before industrialization, social services were mainly provided by private organizations and charities, but their reach was limited. Today, social services are recognized worldwide as an essential aspect of society, enabling governments to tackle societal problems effectively.

Social services cater to various groups, including families, children, youths, elders, women, the sick, and the disabled. These services encompass public education, welfare, infrastructure, libraries, food banks, healthcare, police, fire services, public transportation, and housing, ensuring support and assistance for different needs within society.

Types of Social Services and covers a range of essential areas

  • Healthcare,
  • Education,
  • Police,
  • Labor laws,
  • Fire services,
  • Insurance laws,
  • Food banks,
  • Charitable organizations,
  • Public housing,
  • Aged care,
  • Disability services,
  • Legal aid,
  • Youth services,
  • Crisis support,
  • Emergency relief,
  • Public transportation. 

These services aim to support and assist various segments of the community in their diverse needs.

What Is Social Security?

In the United States, “Social Security” refers to the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program. Administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), it offers retirement, survivor, and disability benefits to workers. While most commonly associated with retirement, it also provides financial support to survivors and disabled workers.

Social security encompasses various legislative measures designed to ensure financial stability for individuals and families during income disruptions or extraordinary expenses. It offers cash benefits in situations like sickness, disability, unemployment, crop failure, loss of a spouse, maternity, childcare responsibilities, or retirement. These programs aim to provide income support and assistance when needed most, safeguarding people’s well-being and alleviating financial burdens in challenging circumstances. 

Types of Social Security Benefits

There are four fundamental benefits of social security and they are, survivors, retirement, disability, supplemental benefits,

Survivors Benefits

Survivors’ benefits offer financial support to widows, widowers, divorced spouses, and children of deceased workers and retirees. The amount of benefits depends on various factors like the worker’s age at death, salary, survivors’ ages, and their relationship to the deceased. Additionally, a one-time payment of $255, known as the “death benefit,” is available for the spouse or children of the deceased worker. Same-sex couples gained access to Social Security benefits after the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Obergefell v. Hodges).

Retirement Benefits

Retirement benefits are associated with Social Security, available for people aged 62 or older with at least 10 years of work history. The benefit amount depends on your pre-retirement salary and when you start receiving benefits. It isn’t meant to be the sole income but can prevent retirement debt. Spouses, including divorced ones, may also qualify for benefits, regardless of their contributions.

Disability benefits

Disability benefits aid those unable to work due to disabilities. To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must have worked a specific number of years based on your age. The monthly benefit is determined by your pre-disability salary. Spouses, including divorced ones, may also be eligible for SSDI benefits.

Supplemental benefits

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) aids individuals unable to earn enough income. It covers adults and children with disabilities and those aged 65+. Some may receive SSI along with disability or retirement benefits, depending on work history. The amount varies based on income and location.

What is Social Policy?

Social policy deals with how societies fulfill human needs like security, education, work, health, and well-being. It tackles global challenges like poverty, migration, and globalization, considering responses to social, demographic, and economic changes. The analysis involves national governments, families, civil society, markets, and international organizations, providing services and support throughout life from childhood to old age.

Social policy covers various services like child and family support, education, housing, income maintenance, unemployment support, pensions, and healthcare. It strives to reduce inequalities in access to these services among different social groups based on factors like socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, gender, disability, and age, both within and between countries.

The word ‘social policy’ is typically used in two ways

Firstly, Social policy includes government actions to tackle social needs for instance employment, education, healthcare, housing, sustenance, and many more effective work.

Secondly, As an academic discipline, it studies how societies allocate resources to address these needs, drawing from economics, history, politics, psychology, and sociology for analysis.

History of social policy

Social policy gained academic interest alongside the UK’s post-war welfare state development. The Beveridge Report in 1942 highlighted the state’s duty to address the ‘five giants’ of need.

  • Idleness
  • Disease
  • ignorance
  • Want

New methods and services led to research on their effectiveness. In 1950, Richard Titmuss became head of the newly-established Department for Social Policy (then called Social Administration) at the London School of Economics. Initially focused on training social workers, the department evolved to conduct extensive research and analysis on social provision.

What is Social Change?

Social change in sociology refers to the modification of elements within the social structure, like cultural symbols, behavior norms, organizations, and value systems. Throughout history, sociologists adopted social change models from various academic fields. In the late 19th century, the evolutionary concept used for understanding biological change influenced ideas of social change. While other models have emerged, evolution remains a foundational principle.

Sociological models drew parallels between social change and the West’s technological advancements. In the mid-20th century, anthropologists utilized structural functionalism, borrowed from linguistic structuralism, to understand social change. This theory proposed that basic institutions, like kinship and division of labor, shape social behavior, and changes in one institution can impact others.

Types of social change and examples
Natural environment

Natural environmental changes, caused by climate variations, disasters, or disease outbreaks, can impact societies. In 14th-century Europe, worsening climates and the Black Death influenced feudalism’s crisis. Some changes result from human activities, like deforestation, erosion, air pollution, and climate change, with significant social consequences.

Demographic Change

Population growth and density are demographic forms of social change. Growth can lead to geographic expansion, cultural blending, and conflicts. Increased density spurs technological innovation, division of labor, social differentiation, commercialization, and urbanization. This process occurred in Europe and England, where growth fueled the Industrial Revolution. However, in some developing countries today, population growth can cause economic stagnation and rising poverty.

Technological changes

Social evolution theories highlight technological innovations as crucial for societal change. Breakthroughs like iron smelting, the plow in agriculture, the steam engine, and computers with the Internet have significant and lasting social impacts.

The Reformation

The Reformation was a religious revolution in the Western church during the 16th century, also known as the Protestant Reformation. It diminished centralized church authority, causing profound political, economic, and social impacts on society.

The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution brought substantial social and economic change through new technologies, transportation, communication, factories, and mass production. It transitioned economies from agrarian to industrialized, leading to urbanization and addressing labor and women’s rights issues.


Ideas are considered influential causes of social change. Comte’s law of three stages is an example. Weber linked religious ideas, particularly Calvinism, to the rise of the capitalist spirit and economic dynamism in the West.

Social movements

The collective idea changes lead to new social movements, potentially causing social change. Weber emphasized “charismatic leadership,” where the extraordinary qualities of leaders inspire followers to defy norms. While initially meaningful, later social theory diluted charisma’s significance, using it for various popular figures.

Political processes

Changes in violence regulation, state organization, and international relations contribute to social change. Norbert Elias saw state formation in Western Europe as an autonomous process, leading to better violence control and self-discipline. Charles Tilly’s theory highlights the state’s role in revolutions—failure to maintain law, order, and territorial integrity creates opportunities for revolutionary groups.

Mechanisms of social change

Causal explanations of social change can be limited, especially when dealing with initial conditions or fundamental processes. A broader and theoretical approach involves constructing a model of recurring mechanisms of social change. These mechanisms, found in various theoretical models, include the following.

What is Social reform?

Social reform entails remaking cultural norms and laws to align with new cultural paradigms. It can happen at various levels—local, regional, national, or global. Reform movements are the most effective way to achieve social reform. 

A reform movement aims to bring social or political systems closer to the community’s ideals. It differs from radical movements that reject old ideals, often being grounded in liberalism, socialism, or religious concepts. Some focus on personal transformation, while others depend on small collectives, like Gandhi’s spinning wheel and self-depending villages, for social change actually it was a very amazing change. Reactionary movements oppose these reforms, attempting to revert to previous conditions or hinder any progress made by the reform movement(s).

Example of social reform


“Abolition” refers to the process of formally putting an end to a system, practice, or institution. Historically, it is most commonly associated with the abolitionist movement that researched to eradicate slavery. The abolitionist movement gained momentum in the 18th and 19th centuries, advocating for the emancipation of enslaved individuals and the elimination of the slave trade. Prominent abolitionists like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman played essential roles in raising awareness and promoting social and legislative changes. Their efforts led to the abolition of slavery in various countries, marking a significant milestone in the fight for human rights and social justice.

Labor and workplace safety

Labor and workplace safety are crucial aspects of ensuring the well-being of workers. It involves implementing measures to protect employees from hazards, accidents, and occupational illnesses. Employers should provide a safe and healthy working environment, conduct regular safety training, and adhere to safety regulations to prevent injuries and promote a productive workforce.


Education involves passing on knowledge, skills, and character traits. Various debates exist about its exact definition and the goals it aims to achieve. Another question is whether education’s essence includes improving the student.

Women’s rights

Women’s rights refer to the advocacy for equal rights and opportunities for women, addressing historical and contemporary gender-based disparities. The movement has fought for suffrage, reproductive rights, economic equality, and an end to gender-based violence and discrimination. Progress has been made in many areas, but challenges remain in various regions and cultures. Empowering women and promoting gender equality is essential for building inclusive and just societies.

Prison reform

Prison reform aims to improve the conditions, treatment, and rehabilitation of inmates within the correctional system. It involves reevaluating sentencing policies, addressing overcrowding, promoting rehabilitation programs, and focusing on alternatives to incarceration. The goal is to create a more effective and humane system that supports the rehabilitation and successful reintegration of individuals back into society after their release.

Social Legislation, Concept, and Objectives

Legislation is a tool to regulate and guide behavior within society. Without control, clashes can arise, leading to chaos and harm. Legislation, alongside customs, traditions, and religion, channels individual actions appropriately. The law encompasses various branches, including social legislation, aimed at promoting social welfare. Taxation, corporate, civil, criminal, and commercial laws are among the types of legislation. Together, these institutions work to create a harmonious and ordered society.

  • The objective of Social Legislation
  • Ensuring equality for all by eradicating discrimination based on sex, religion, caste, class, and more. and also Promot equal rights and opportunities for everybody.
  • Protecting the rights of vulnerable groups like women, children, elderly, widows, destitute individuals, and backward classes.
  • Eliminating harmful traditional practices and social evils like untouchability, dowry, child marriage, and female infanticide.
  • Provision of Social Security.

Legislation focused on social changes, welfare, and institutional reforms is categorized as social legislation. It aims to improve and protect the social and economic positions of vulnerable groups, preventing discrimination. Our constitutional documents embody social legislation. It addresses various social problems like family issues, child marriage, trafficking, and juvenile delinquency. Social workers play a vital role in addressing these problems, offering support and knowledge to marginalized individuals. Social legislation is essential for creating a balanced and inclusive society.

  • 1. Ensure social justice.
  • 2. Create positive social and economic change.
  • 3. Eradicate social problems, malpractices, and outdated customs.
  • 4. Fight against discrimination and social inequalities.
  • 5. Bring about social reforms.
  • 6. Promote social welfare.
  • 7. Protect and advocate for the human rights of marginalized and underprivileged groups.

Legislation about  Woman

  • Equal Pay Act of 1963: Prohibits gender-based wage discrimination in the workplace.
  • Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972: Ensures gender equality in educational programs and activities.
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994: Addresses domestic violence, dating violence, and sexual assault against women.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993: Provides job-protected leave for eligible employees, including maternity leave.
  • The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW): An international treaty promoting gender equality and women’s rights.
  • Reproductive Health Act: Legislation in various countries addressing women’s reproductive rights and access to healthcare. Reference: Specific references may vary depending on the country implementing the act.

Legislation about Children

  • 1. Juvenile Justice Act of 2000: Addresses the treatment of juvenile offenders and their rehabilitation.
  • 2. Child Labor Prohibition and Regulation Act of 1986: Aims to eliminate child labor and regulate working conditions for children.
  • 3. Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles, and Infant Foods Regulation Act of 1992: Regulates the sale and distribution of infant milk substitutes.
  • 4. Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act of 2005: Establishes bodies to safeguard child rights and interests.
  • 5. Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009: confirm free and compulsory education for children who are in the age of  6 to 14 years.

Legislation about Health

  • 1. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010: Aimed at improving healthcare access and affordability for millions of Americans, providing insurance coverage, and implementing preventive health measures.
  • 2. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011: Focuses on preventing foodborne illnesses and enhancing food safety standards throughout the food supply chain.
  • 3. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) of 2008: Ensures equal coverage for mental health and substance use disorder treatments compared to physical health treatments in health insurance plans.
  • 4. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of 2010: Expands Medicaid, establishes health insurance marketplaces, and implements various health insurance reforms to increase coverage and affordability.
  • 5. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993: Allows eligible employees to take job-protected leave for medical and family reasons, including caring for a family member’s health needs.
  • 6. The Clean Air Act (CAA) of 1970: Focuses on reducing air pollution and improving air quality to protect public health and the environment.

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